Day 16: Human horsepower and the art of wrong

Field Report
photo: Team Don’t Tell Mom by Lynnette Oostmeyer


Before we get to the business of the day, let’s recenter.

Calling the R2AK out on being factually inaccurate is worldwide the most predictable kind of “Duh.” Saying we got a fact wrong is like blaming gravity for going downhill, like calling out a dog for eating cat poop out of the litter box, again. We promised you stories, knee-deep in metaphor, hand to god as close to the truth as we feel we can get to it. Facts, bah.

Still, unnamed parties have come forward with a different recollection of quotes we issued from Team Sockeye in yesterday’s update. With at least a head-fake towards sincerity, we offer another version of those quotes that might be closer to what they remember:

“The hardest thing I’ve ever done.”
Harder than I possibly imagined.”
“I wish we could spend more time at all these places.”

We suspect they won’t be able to accept our correction due to the fact that at the time of publication, they will be entering the territory of No Access to Social Media. We’ll have to assume that they are overjoyed.

In addition, we seem to have forecasted correctly the retirement of Team Fire Escape, but not the true reason. Not surprising. Upon landing at Bella Bella, they immediately tore apart their pedal drive that, for the final 24 hours of racing, propelled the vessel at about a ½ knot per hour or the equivalent speed of a slug during mating season—which is an impressive feat in the world of terrestrial gastropods, but utterly useless when racing to Alaska. Since last Tuesday Team Fire Escape had been engaged in any bright or dim idea that may have gotten their drive working again, but finally had to call their intrepid fourth crew done for.

Your timing on reading this will need to be impeccable. Really. It’s coming out roughly the same time as our first two human-powered teams, Don’t Tell Mom and Let’s Row Maybe? are going to reach the dock (or before they arrive, or quite a bit after). Yesterday, Don’t Tell Mom broke camp at 5 am and rowed the longest day of their race, at just over 70 nautical miles. Day 15 of their race, and they rowed across Dixon Entrance—known for its savage weather and broken currents—70 miles in a 14-hour push, stretching their lead on what we’ve decided is a stiffly contested race against fellow rowers, Team Let’s Row Maybe?.

These two teams are the first of the small band of human-powered racers to reach Ketchikan, of which there are only three. R2AK royalty, Team Oaracle, makes the third team and are a day or so away from reaching Ketchikan themselves.

The Grim Sweeper is going to be passing Telegraph Cove, but these two teams only need to look forward. See you on the docks.


Photos by Rebecca Ross: first Team Let’s Row Maybe?, second Team Don’t Tell Mom, third Team Oaracle

Field Report: Behind the Scenes: The Unsung Volunteers

By Rebecca Ross, Field Reporter

Photo by Zach Carver

Race to Alaska has been one hell of an adventure for me as a field reporter. I made many stops between Port Townsend, WA, and Ketchikan, AK. My travels trended north via various modes of transportation, including boats. So many boats. But I often found my route doubling back, going sideways, or stalling altogether. If I had been fitted with a race tracker, the result would look like a kitten chasing a laser pointer.

The wonderful support and positivity from fans like you, who have been following along with my stories and those of the other field reporters, have made ricocheting around the coasts of Washington, Canada, and Alaska all worth it. And, as I wait for racers to cross the finish line, I must take a moment to recognize that without all the R2AK volunteers who have dedicated their time, knowledge, and resources, our in-depth stories on the racers wouldn’t be possible… Keep Reading